Is Your Dog Getting by on Looks?

Who isn’t sometimes a sucker for a cute face?  We all are!  Unfortunately, for some dogs, this becomes a lifestyle.  Plenty of dogs have successfully trained their owners by engaging in an endearing behavior which results in meeting any need and want. This behavior set may be simply standing, tail wagging, and looking at a human.

With enough repetitions, the dog learns this works and offers very little else by way of other behaviors.  As years go by without further training, it becomes more difficult to motivate the dog.  He is less inclined to offer other behaviors, when looking at his human works so well.

No Earning, no Learning

Young dogs are learning every moment, either from the environment or from us.  If we observe, we can see how they behave in the environment for their gratification.  When we intervene to teach them skills, we can use motivation, criteria setting, and reinforcement schedules.  With repeated experiences like this, the dog earns gratification and learns new behaviors that become habits.

In the absence of actively training in new skills, the dog is left to his own devices.  He experiments with what works for him with canine behaviors that, by our human definitions, are undesirable in many contexts.  He can grow into a “single-trick” dog.

Learning is a Skill

The more training we do with our dogs, the more competent they become.  Most young dogs roll out lots of behaviors to determine which ones will yield a gratifying result.  It’s up to us to pay attention and participate in reinforcing the ones we like and ignoring or redirecting the ones we don’t like. 

So many dogs truly seem to enjoy learning.  For them, it’s a fun game to play with a human.  This interaction is the key to the most wonderful relationships with our dogs.

Build the Confidence

Relaxed, confident dogs are not typically those individuals with behavior problems that require rehabilitation.  Our dogs are very endearing to us, and it is so tempting to just give and ask nothing from them.  In fact, this is a disservice to our intelligent four-legged friends. 

This doesn’t need to be a daunting project.  Train in a rock solid “sit and wait”.  Two cues.  Then, use them everywhere!

Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel   CPDT-KA, 2019 all rights reserved

Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC